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Playing in the Snow – Ten Brain-Based Learning Tips For Winter

The phone rang: “Hello. Is this Alison’s Dad?” “Yep.” “This is Alison’s teacher and Alison needs you to bring dry shoes, socks and pants to kindergarten. Alison had such fun playing in the snow before the bell rang that her boots and snow pants are wet and filled with snow.” Wow! What a great teacher. What a terrific school.

And older sister Abby had a dilemma earlier in the season. Should she continue with figure skating lessons or join the junior girls’ ice hockey team? Clearly, the only solution . . . do both.

In terms of health and increasing brain power, these kids and their parents have it right. Playing in the snow combats obesity, builds strong muscles and fit bodies, and gets kids out of artificial light and stale, dry indoor air. When the sun’s shining, kids get a good dose of vitamin D. And playing in the snow is great fun.

One time during a class, a loving but overly-protective Mom asked me if I thought it was o.k. for her daughter to make snow angels. And did I know what a snow angel was. I answered “yes” to both. Mom was afraid her daughter might catch a cold if she was lying in the snow. Well, I suppose maybe if she stayed in the snow without moving for an hour or two. But generations of children have been making snow angels without getting pneumonia.

So bundle them up. Then get them warm and dry when they come inside, and they’ll be just fine.

Ten Things to Do in the Snow:

1. Shovel. Get lighter weight shovels with shorter handles for the kids and now shoveling snow is a family activity.

2. Make snow men, snow women, snow families, animals, dragons, dinosaurs, cartoon figures, houses, forts, and igloos.

3. Throw snow balls at targets (If you’re having a snowball fight, make sure the snow is soft and that it’s against the rules to throw at a person’s head.)

4. Invent games. Start by making tracks in the snow, packing them down enough that they become “trails” and then make up the rules for run-fast-and-you-win games. A circle with spokes and the first person to get to the center wins, for example. A caller tells everybody to run around the circle. Then says “run to the center.” The child who finds the closest spoke and gets to center first wins. Kids will quickly make up their own variations of this game.

5. Take a walk

6. Use snowshoes (Don’t want to buy them? Lots of sporting goods stores will rent them.)

7. Make a Lazy 8 track in the snow. (Looks like an infinity sign, an 8 on its side) Following that track around helps kids cross from right to left, an essential movement for reading and improving reading. Run around the track. Stomp around the track. Snowshoe around the track. Make up a game: two hops, two stomps and then walk. The next child makes up another game. Lazy 8’s are used in Brain Gym® and other learning programs to help kids with reading. Now playing in the snow becomes an educational activity.

8. Draw snow pictures and paint them. (Get snow paint at toy and craft stores.) Paint Lazy 8s. (See the previous tip.)

9. Cross-country ski Don’t have skis? Slide your feet on the snow instead of walking. Make a Lazy 8 track large enough and wide enough that you can cross-country ski on it.

10. Get out the sleds and saucers. No worries about the required hill. Your kids will figure out how to build one. (No head first sledding.)

Playing in the snow requires moving. And moving tops the list as a brain-based learning strategy. Tops the list as a non-drug alternative for ADHD. So find the winter coats, the gloves, and the hats. Push them out the door and into the snow.